Not enough food. Inedible meals. No training material. Some Olympic athletes unlucky enough to test positive for coronavirus at the Beijing Olympics believe their quarantine conditions are making a bad situation even worse.
“I have a stomach ache, I’m very pale and I have huge dark circles around my eyes. I want this all to end. I cry every day. I am very tired,” Russian biathlon competitor Valeria Vasnetsova posted on Instagram from one of Beijing’s so-called quarantine hotels.
His problem was not related to any symptoms of the virus. It was the food.
Vasnetsova posted a photo on Thursday of what she said has been “breakfast, lunch and dinner for five days already” – a tray with food including plain pasta, orange sauce, charred meat on a bone, a few potatoes and no greens.
She said she mostly survived on a few pieces of pasta because it was “impossible” to eat the rest, “but today I ate all the fat they serve instead of meat because I was very hungry”. She added that she had lost a lot of weight and “my bones were already sticking out”.
Quarantine hotels are increasingly the target of criticism from athletes and their teams, who are pressuring organizers for improvements. There is also a lack of transparency, with only some athletes infected with the virus forced to stay in quarantine hotels that their teams do not have access to, while teammates in similar situations are allowed to self-isolate in the Olympic village.
The rules for athletes who test positive state that those who show no symptoms go to a dedicated hotel to self-isolate. Anyone with COVID-19 showing symptoms will go to the hospital. In either case, they will not be able to compete until they are released.
Teams have started to go public with their reviews.
After three-time Nordic combined gold medalist Eric Frenzel tested positive, German delegation leader Dirk Schimmelpfennig blasted the “unreasonable” living conditions. Germany wants bigger, more hygienic halls and more regular food deliveries so athletes who are eventually released are still fit to compete, Schimmelpfennig said in comments reported by the FAZ newspaper.
Pressure can pay. Belgian skeleton racer Kim Meylemans has been brought back from a quarantine hotel to solitary confinement in the Athletes’ Village after posting a tearful message on social media. His main complaint was the lack of information. She was loaded into an ambulance and transported from one quarantine facility to another on a day she thought she would be released.
Vasnetsova spent her time in quarantine with a little detective work. Going to get the food left outside her door, she glanced at the boxes left outside other rooms in her hallway, the doors of which were labeled with signs to distinguish Olympians from other people working at the Games that have tested positive, such as team personnel.
She concluded that the athletes’ food was getting worse and highlighted this with a photo of the food served to her team doctor, who had also tested positive and lived two floors down. It had fresh fruit, salad and shrimp with broccoli.
“I honestly don’t understand, why is there this attitude towards us athletes?!” she wrote.
Two days after her criticism, Vasnetsova is still in quarantine, but things are looking up.
Russian biathlon team spokesman Sergei Averyanov posted a photo of what he said was an improved meal delivered to Vasnetsova’s room, including salmon, cucumbers, sausages and yogurt. A stationary bike will be delivered soon, he added.
Vasnetsova, he writes, “is already smiling, and that’s the main thing.”